Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 19: Analysis of Objection #7

Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 19: Analysis of Objection #7 January 21, 2020

KREEFT’S STATMENT OF OBJECTION #7

Here is Peter Kreeft’s statement of his Objection #7 against the Swoon Theory from Chapter 8 of  his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter referred to as HCA):

How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb? Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it, for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed: the Jews had the stone put there in the first place, and the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body “escape.”

The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable. Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives. And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them. Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory, with all its unanswerable difficulties (see next section).

(HCA, p. 183-184)

 

ANALYSIS OF OBJECTION #7

Because this is an objection against the Swoon Theory, and because it is clearly Kreeft’s intention to “refute” the Swoon Theory, we already know the conclusion of the argument that constitutes Objection #7, even though Kreeft fails to clearly state this conclusion:

A. The Swoon Theory is FALSE.

The main premises of Kreeft’s argument are also fairly obvious, though, once again, Kreeft fails to clearly state ANY of these main premises:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

But there is a BIG LOGICAL GAP between these four premises and the conclusion that Kreeft is trying to prove.  It is far from clear how the alleged movement of the stone is relevant to proving that the Swoon Theory is FALSE. 

Kreeft not only FAILS to clearly state his conclusion, and FAILS to clearly state the main premises of his argument, but he also FAILS to provide any explanation of how these premises are supposed to prove this conclusion!  In short, his argument here is a steaming pile of dog crap, which is what I have come to expect from Peter Kreeft.

There is what appears to be an intermediate conclusion that is suggested by Kreeft in these two sentences:

Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question.

This looks like the all-too-common “God-of-the-Gaps” move that one frequently encounters in the arguments of Christian apologists:

There is no plausible natural explanation for X, so God must have caused X. 

Kreeft modifies this common crappy bit of reasoning by substituting “an angel” for “God”:

There is no plausible natural explanation for X, so an angel must have caused X.

More specifically,  Kreeft appears to be making the following inference:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

2. An angel must have moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Even so, the claim that an angel moved the stone does NOT imply that Jesus died on the cross nor that Jesus was completely dead when his body was placed in a stone tomb.  The supernatural movement of a stone by an angel does NOT imply that some other supernatural event took place (like the resurrection of Jesus), so the movement of the stone by an angel does NOT show that the Swoon Theory is FALSE.  Jesus could have survived the crucifixion without any divine or supernatural assistance, and then received supernatural assistance from an angel in getting out of the tomb.  In that case, the Swoon Theory (and the more general Survival Theory) would still be TRUE.

It is more likely, however, that it is the prior claim that Kreeft is counting on as a basis to disprove the Swoon Theory:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

But Kreeft provides no explanation of how or why this claim shows that the Swoon Theory is false.  So, on its face, Kreeft’s argument appears to be INVALID.  The intermediate conclusion (1) does not appear to prove or imply the ultimate conclusion (A) that Kreeft is trying to establish with this argument.

We can return to an overall evaluation of this argument later.  For now, let’s focus on the analysis of the logical structure of the claims and inferences that Kreeft has presented.  I take it that the core of Kreeft’s argument looks like this (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if we grant these four key claims, the intermediate conclusion (1) doesn’t follow.  For example, Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some other Roman soldiers, who were not guarding the tomb, moved the stone, and Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some Jews who were neither “authorities in Jerusalem” nor “disciples of Jesus” moved the stone.

Furthermore, when Kreeft talks about “the disciples”, what he means (in this context) is the twelve disciples (or the eleven remaining disciples after Judas betrayed Jesus and thus was no longer counted as a disciple).  But Jesus had many followers besides the inner circle of his “twelve disciples”, and Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some followers of Jesus other than the twelve disciples moved the stone.

Jerusalem was a large city, so there were probably some non-Jewish people there other than Roman soldiers.  There may have been some non-Jewish Egyptians, and some non-Jewish Greeks, and some non-Jewish Africans, and there may have been some Romans in Jerusalem who were not Roman soldiers.  So, there are lots of different potential groups of people who could have moved the stone, about which Kreeft has said NOTHING.

I’m going to break down Kreeft’s statement of Objection #7 into several clearly-stated claims.  This is his first sentence: “How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb?”  This is a rhetorical question that actually makes a CLAIM:

3. IF Jesus was still alive when he was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, THEN Jesus would have been too weak to move the stone from the door of the tomb that weekend.

This is a reason given in support of an unstated premise that is part of the core of the argument:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Kreeft’s second sentence is another rhetorical question followed by a third sentence that asserts a claim: “Who moved the stone if not an angel?  No one has ever answered that question.”  I have already interpreted these two sentences as implying the following bit of reasoning:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

2. An angel must have moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

However, I suspect that claim (2) does not play a role in Kreeft’s argument against the Swoon Theory.

The first part of the fourth sentence makes two claims:  “Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it…”  Here are the two claims implied by this part of the fourth sentence:

4. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

5. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The next part of the fourth sentence also makes two claims:  “…for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed…”  Here are the two claims implied by this second part of the fourth sentence:

6. It was in the interests of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to keep the tomb of Jesus sealed.

7. It was in the interests of the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus to keep the tomb sealed.

Premise (7) is a bit weak and vague.  Kreeft goes on to argue that this was a life-or-death issue for the Roman soldiers, making this more than mildly in their interest, and keeping “the tomb sealed” is a roundabout way of saying that the soldiers would have done everything in their power to prevent Jesus’ body from leaving the tomb:

7A. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus knew that it would have been strongly against their self-interest to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb (or to allow anyone else to move the stone).

Premise (6) and premise (7A) are reasons in support of premise (4) and premise (5), and premises (4) and (5) are reasons in support of two UNSTATED premises that are part of the core of Kreeft’s argument:

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The next phrase in the fourth sentence makes a claim:  “…the Jews had the stone put there in the first place…”  Here is the claim:

8. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had requested of Pilate that the tomb of Jesus be sealed with a stone blocking the doorway.

The next phrase in the fourth sentence also makes a claim: “…the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body ‘escape.’ ” Here is the claim made by that phrase:

9.  The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would have been executed if they let the body of Jesus leave the tomb or be removed from the tomb, and the Roman soldiers knew this.

I have added the phrase “and the Roman soldiers knew this”, because (9) is supposed to be a reason supporting (7) and (ultimately) (D), but this reasoning FAILS unless we add that the Roman soldiers were AWARE of the threat of execution if they failed to prevent the body of Jesus from leaving the tomb.

The fifth sentence in Kreeft’s statement of Objection #7 makes two claims:  “The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable.” Here are the two claims this sentence makes:

10. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem spread the story that the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus fell asleep while guarding the tomb, and that the disciples of Jesus stole the body of Jesus from the tomb while the soldiers slept.

11. It is NOT the case that the disciples of Jesus stole the body of Jesus from the tomb while the Roman soldiers were sleeping. 

Claim (10) does not appear to play a role in Kreeft’s argument, nor does claim (11) appear to play a role in this argument against the Swoon Theory.

The first clause of the sixth sentence makes a claim:  “Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that…”  I assume that “a job like that” is a vague reference to the idea that the soldiers were ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to stand guard over the tomb of Jesus.  Here is the claim:

12. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Roman soldiers would not fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus.

The next clause of the sixth sentence also makes a claim:  “…if they did, they would lose their lives.”  Here is the claim stated more clearly:

13. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN those Roman soldiers knew that they would be executed if they fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and if Pilate (or one of their superior officers) found out about this.

I have added the qualifications “Pilate (or one of their superior officers) found out about this…” as well as the qualification that “the Roman soldiers knew that they would be executed…” because  (13) is supposed to be a reason supporting claim (12), but the inference from (13) to (12) FAILS unless these qualifications are included in (13).   Claim (12) is in turn a reason given to support the key premise (E), but other UNSTATED assumptions are needed for this inference to be logical:

F. The Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus.

G. IF the Roman soldiers did NOT fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, THEN Jesus’ disciples would NOT have been able to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The seventh sentence makes two claims: “And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them.”  Here is the main claim made by that sentence:

14. IF the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the noise from the crowd and the effort to move the stone would have wakened the Roman soldiers.

Here is another claim implied by the sentence:

15. The stone blocking the door of the tomb of Jesus was an enormous boulder.

Claim (15) is a reason given to support claim (14), and claim (14) is a reason given to support an UNSTATED premise that is part of the core of Kreeft’s argument:

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

There is a logical gap in Kreeft’s reasoning here in the inference from (14) to (E), but he would probably fill in this gap by claiming that if the Roman soldiers had fallen asleep and then been wakened by the noise of the disciples effort to move the stone, then the soldiers would have killed or arrested many of those disciples right then, but none of Jesus’s disciples were killed at Jesus tomb, and none were arrested for attempting to break into the tomb, so we can rule out (E) in the case where we suppose that the soldiers fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, in the view of Kreeft.

The first phrase of the eighth sentence makes a claim:  “Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory…”  Here is the claim made by this phrase:

16. IF the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Conspiracy Theory would be true.

The second phrase of Kreeft’s eighth sentence also makes a claim:  “…with all its unanswerable difficulties…”  Here is the claim made by this phrase:

17. There are a number of decisive objections to the Conspiracy Theory which cannot be shown to be weak or flawed objections.

Claim (17) is a reason in support of an UNSTATED claim:

H. It is NOT the case that the Conspiracy Theory is true.

The combination of claim (16) and claim (H) provide a sub-argument in support of the key premise (E).

Here is the logical structure of this argument by Kreeft against the Swoon Theory (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the next post,  I will evaluate (or begin to evaluate) this argument that constitutes Kreeft’s Objection #7 against the Swoon Theory.

"I have a theory.. and this theory is mine. a theory of my very own.. ..."

The Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s ..."
"6. Myth: The apostles and Jesus never existed. The gospels were written by Greeks, barely ..."

The Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s ..."
"That’s true. Part of my point is the four alternatives Kreeft offers assume that the ..."

Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment